Parsha

For the week ending 19 June 2010 / 6 Tammuz 5770

Parshat Chukat

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

The laws of the para aduma the red heifer are detailed. These laws are for the ritual purification of one who comes into contact with death. After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh. The people complain about the loss of their water supply that until now has been provided miraculously in the merit of Miriam's righteousness. Aharon and Moshe pray for the people's welfare. G-d commands them to gather the nation at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water will flow forth. Distressed by the people's lack of faith, Moshe hits the rock instead of speaking to it. He thus fails to produce the intended public demonstration of G-d's mastery over the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely at Moshe's word. Therefore, G-d tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not bring the people into the Land.Bnei Yisrael resume their travels, but because the King of Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to Eretz Yisrael. When they reach Mount Hor, Aharon dies and his son Elazar is invested with his priestly garments and responsibilities. Aharon was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him 30 days. Sichon the Amorite attacks Bnei Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land. As a result, Bnei Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River.

Insights

Oi!

“This is the (unexplainable) law of the Torah…” (19:1)

Sometimes it seems to me that the Jewish People are like a backward student that "just doesn't get it."

For almost as long as there has been Judaism, there has been anti-Semitism.

The Jew’s crime against Mankind however remains endlessly elastic: We are vilified as the filthy rich, the filthy poor, grabbing capitalists, conspiring communists, both the lackeys of the establishment and their paymasters; we are both rootless cosmopolitans and the bastions of the bourgeoisie.

In fact, the only thing on which all anti-Semites can agree is that the world would be an infinitely better place without the Jew. Half the world says this openly, and the other half thinks it.

To counteract this totally illogical and implacable hatred we have attempted two solutions: The first was to try and be like all the other nations. The theory was that if we tone down the more obvious parts of the religion – or better still, try to be identical to our hosts – they would accept us and stop hating us. That theory resulted in a hatred as vicious as any in our history and the barbaric deaths of six million.

The second solution said that if we have our own state, the nations will respect us and leave us alone. That theory has brought us to an existential danger unparalleled in our history.

When will we get the point?

When will we stop blaming the worldwide opprobrium of the State of Israel as a chronic failure of public relations, to be remedied by spin-doctors?

This is the (unexplainable) law of the Torah…

The hatred of the nations for the Jewish People is not explainable rationally – it is a “chok”, a “statute” – it is beyond sense or reason.

The spiritual masters teach that the name Sinai comes from the same root as sinah – meaning hatred. (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 84a) When the Jewish People received the Torah, along with it a preternatural hatred entered the world.

The Mishna in Avot (6:2) says that everyday a bat kol (an “echo”) emanates from Mount Chorev (Sinai) proclaiming, “Oi!”

What a shame that when we think of Oi! a bloated borscht-belt comedian swims into our minds.

Nothing could be further from the true picture.

Oi! is a terrifying word.

When the Beit HaMikdash – the Holy Temple – was razed to the ground, the book of Eicha (Lamentations 5:15) laments "Oi!" Oi has the same root as the Hebrew words aima – "terror", and iyum – "threat."

At Sinai, the Torah was given as 'a great sound that does not cease' (Devarim 8:19). You can still hear that original sound. It has not stopped. To this day it speaks to us.

For those who don't want to hear that sound, however, they will hear another sound, a bat kol, an echo, a reflection that will remind them, in no uncertain terms — "Oi!"

Someone who doesn't accept the kol, the voice, the sound of Sinai, will be faced by a terrifying and threatening echo of that voice.

And the more we distance ourselves from that "great sound that never ceases," the more that echo will come and remind us who we are and why we are here.

“This is the (unexplainable) law of the Torah…”

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